We've written about Dan Gordon's myth-busting memorandum and its emphasis on the need to communicate. Specifically, we've picked up on his admonition to contracting officers to conduct oral debriefings with open communications. As we've noted, he believes, as we do, that more communication leads to less protesting. Well, as we have said over and over again, contracting officers are either ignorant of Dan's advice or they are just plain resisting it. In fact, written debriefings seem to be on the rise, which means there is less communication than ever before.
Written debriefings are the scourge of the procurement landscape. They are terse, carefully written, probably reviewed by lawyers, and they only reveal the basic information required by FAR 15.506. Take a good look at FAR 15.506 (d). "At a minimum, the debriefing information shall include . . . ." At a minimum, debriefings absolutely must include a list of six (6) items. The last one requires "reasonable responses to relevant questions" about the procurement. Now I ask you, how in the name of everything sacred, can a written debriefing satisfy this requirement? It seems to us the whole section contemplates a dialogue.
Dan says, and we agree, that the regulations do not need to be rewritten to require communication between contracting officers and industry personnel. The rules are in place. So what is needed is not more rule-making. We probably need another "best practices" guide from OFPP directed at contracting officers and adopted by senior acquisition officials. These senior officials then need to push down the best practices guide and supervise its implementation all the way down to the ground level. We also believe these officials need to authorize and order a training module for DAU and FAI that requires instruction on the best practices guide.
We believe more communication will lead to better results all the way around at every level. We would testify once more that with regard to debriefings in particular, we know that failure to communicate leads to more protests than when communications are free and open. If the contracting officer won't disclose the reasons for the award, a protester's lawyer can see the whole file in a protest. But on the broader view, in these times of the urgent need for innovation, risk assessment, industry survival and budget constraints, we believe we should be talking more, not less. One of the benefits will be saving taxpayer dollars.